Remembering Buddy Anderson
Article and Photographs by Connell R. Miller
This month we note the second anniversary of the passing of one of the great racers to come out of the hotly contested altered wars of the 1950s and 1960s in the Southwest.
Karl “Buddy” Anderson was a Dallas teenager when he won his first trophy in 1953 at the famed old military airport just up the road at Caddo Mills. He was a participant at the first NHRA Nationals at Great Bend, Kansas in 1955 and, driving his ’32 Ford, the “Mud Hen,” won the C/Altered class at the 1956 event. However, Buddy kept remembering the flathead-powered Fiat coupe of West Coast legend Jim “Jazzy” Nelson from the year before, so began a search for a Topolino (Italian for “little mouse”) for the 1957 season.
Finding a suitable body in a nearby suburb and with the help of Wayne Calvert, owner of a Denton, Texas shop noted for its race engine building, the little car came together in an amazing two week period. The body was fitted to a 92” wheelbase Model A chassis and front end (Buddy told me it took him almost as long to drill the lightening holes in that axle as it did to build the entire car!). The Ford banjo-style rear end carried a Halibrand quick-change and was fitted with cut-down Buick axles and later model Ford binders.
An Engle-cammed 265 cu. in. Chevy V-8 first sat between the frame rails, but soon morphed into a 327 with a hotter Isky bumpstick, Vertex mag and 6-2 bbl. Manifold. Eventually the tired ’38 Ford transmission was replaced by a 4-speed B & M Hydro Stick and the carbs with an Enderle fuel injection set up.
The car – now dubbed the “Widdle White Wabbit” - was an immediate success, winning the first of several Texas State Championship trophies for Anderson that year. I was there at that ’57 event at Caddo Mills with Jimmy Boren, who was runner-up in the D/Gas class, and we watched that skinny, young kid take the win in that cool little white Fiat with “Calvert Automotive” painted on the doors! Through the years over seventy trophies found their way onto shelves on the garage wall at his house, including those from his four-in-a-row wins at the AHRA Nationals. This was no easy feat, as there were several very hot B/Altereds in Texas alone fighting for class and Middle Eliminator wins. A few of the more well-known ones were Don Breithaupt and his “DCB” coupe, Jimmy and Bobby Carson’s “Swamp Buggy” deuce sedan and Richard Warwick from Houston.
In 1962, Buddy set an NHRA B/Altered E.T. record at 10.89, and by 1967, had recorded his best time slip of 10.67 at 133 mph. His prowess at the drag strip was noticed by AHRA President Jim Tice and Anderson became the Treasurer for that organization. At the same time he was serving in the National Guard and was nervously watching the news as Russia was delivering nuclear missiles to Cuba, just 90 miles from our southernmost border.
In 1967, Buddy parked the “Wabbit” on jack stands in his garage and went to work for the construction company owned by two fuel racers, Foster Yancey and Brad Camp. Leaving there 24 years later he began driving a big rig, slowing down with just occasional runs up until the last couple of years of his life.
When the nostalgia movement heated up and the old cars were being pulled out of the rafters and being restored or even re-created, Buddy began attending a few events again. Primarily due to the urging of Austin’s Ed Miller, founder of the Texas Timing Association and 1968 AHRA A/FA Nationals champ, Anderson pulled the tarp off of the “Widdle White Wabbit” after its almost 40-year sleep. After polishing the mid-60’s pearl paint job, he replaced the front Palamides spokers with new Pirelli tires, aired up the original M&H Racemasters, and serviced the B & M transmission. He then dropped in a fairly hot, carbureted 350 small-block and went racing again! Even with a milder engine under the hood, the little Fiat still had enough beans to spin those Racemasters. Of course, the “second career” of the “Wabbit” was more about the fun of letting the spectators see a 50+ year-old car make a good, straight pass and its owner getting to spend time with friends and former competitors from his long career.
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